Fifty-nine miles of the Missouri River, skirting the southern border of South Dakota, are among the last remaining natural stretches of America’s longest river. The Missouri River Institute was created at the University of South Dakota to celebrate the history of the great river, study its resources and help the public appreciate all it has to offer.
“It is a collection of faculty at USD that is involved with promoting research and public outreach about the river,” said the director David Swanson. “It involves both natural and cultural history, multiple departments and a wide range of faculty work on it.”
Swanson, a biology professor at USD, has researched the migrant bird populations along the river. Other departments include chemistry looking into the sedimentation in specific sections of the Missouri River and the anthropology department who researches the historical aspects of the area. The Missouri River Oral History Project, created by the Media & Journalism department, interviewed subjects for a documentary on the lives of residents both before and after damming.
“We are interested in getting people aware of the great resource the river is and connecting them to using the river,” said Swanson.
While there are currently no ongoing classes at USD, professors want the institute to be a center of learning for the public.
“The river is such a unique resource, it is the closet we can get to when Lewis and Clark went through,” said Swanson. “It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as a not channelized resource.”
Outreach Projects for the MRI have included the MNRR Water Trail which created an operational waterway along the river. Swanson hopes to get the access for individuals on the trail to use their phones to get information while on the trail. The Missouri River Basin Education Network allows students and teachers access to resources and games online. Every year a Research Symposium is held at USD that brings together researchers and universities to discuss new developments and discoveries. The next Symposium is scheduled for April of 2015.
For more information on the Missouri River Institute program and outreach projects, go to http://www.usd.edu/missouri-river-institute/.